Ruth Vostal knew all about traditions of soccer excellence, coming from the St. Charles High School dynasty in her playing days.
Now 13 years in to her coaching tenure at St. Charles North, Vostal's handprints are all over the ascent of another state powerhouse in St. Charles.
Vostal last week was recognized by the current team's players and parents for winning her 200th game as North Stars coach. That milestone came in North's second victory of the season against Evanston.
Vostal, a St. Charles East hall of famer and class of 1994 Saints graduate, took over North's program when St. Charles High split into East and North at the turn of the century. She had been an assistant in the Saints' program after her college soccer career at Michigan.
"I wanted North to have its own tradition, its own success and build its own history," Vostal said. "I feel like we've done that well. I feel like we've built a program where people are proud to say they played in that program."
Vostal has guided the North Stars to a pair of state runners-up finishes – including last season, when the North Stars fell to Naperville North in quadruple overtime of the 3A state final – as well as a third place finish in 2010.
Even before North had upperclassmen in the program, Vostal's program showed signs of promise, defeating Batavia in a regional game with only freshmen and sophomores to work with.
Vostal acknowledged it took a few years for it to stop feeling strange when North competed against her alma mater, and recalled some of the quirks of the transition when she started to mold future North Stars while still on the east side.
"It was sort of cool because i was coaching at St. Charles but yet we were buying blue uniforms and we already called ourselves St. Charles North even though the split [wasn't going to take place] until the next year," Vostal said.
Vostal was only 23 years old when she took over North's program. She credits former Saints coach Tim Dailey with encouraging her to apply.
Vostal has three children – a 7-year old boy and 5-year-old twins, a boy and a girl – and said raising a family while coaching makes for a hectic schedule.
Still, it sounds like chasing that elusive state title remains a major focus. This year's North Stars, off to a 6-1 start, are again considered a realistic contender.
"I personally as a coach have some of my own goals I'd like to accomplish," Vostal said. "I can't say I think about [how long I'll keep coaching] all the time. I love it and it would be very, very hard to give it up and hand the program over to someone else after being here for 13 years. There will come a point where that would happen but there are some coaching goals I'd like to accomplish, and hopefully we can do that."
Wheaton Academy is one of the youngest teams in the area and is retooling after losing standouts Crystal Thomas and Ally Witt to graduation.
"With our inexperience, we're not a real technically sound team this year," Wheaton Academy coach Dave Underwood said after Wednesday's 2-1 loss at Rosary. "It's certainly exacerbated when you're not getting a real true bounce [on a grass field] and stuff like that, but they had to play on it, too."
While the Warriors aren't clicking yet, Underwood said he likes what he's seeing from the team's younger players, such as freshman Jamie Netzley and sophomore Kate Lindsay.
"It certainly bodes well for the future," Underwood said. "We've got some good players that are young players."
IN THE GROOVE
Anna Sheen, Rosary, Fr., D
What she did: Sheen scored the winning goal with 22 seconds left in Wednesday's match against Suburban Christian Conference rival Wheaton Academy, giving the Royals a 2-1 victory.
Allie Arvizu, St. Charles East, Sr., D
What she did: Arvizu put away the lone goal in Tuesday's win against Geneva, converting a header off a Shannon Rasmussen corner kick. Arvizu added another goal in Wednesday's 3-2 win against Schaumburg at the Augsburg-Drach Invite.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
The U-46 schools don't match up so well with St. Charles North.
The North Stars demolished Larkin and Elgin by identical 8-0 scores on back-to-back days Tuesday and Wednesday.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether Geneva can resuscitate its hoped for a third straight Upstate Eight Conference River title.
With only six conference matches used to determine the champion, each match looms large, so Geneva's 1-0 loss to St. Charles East on Tuesday put the Vikings in a significant early hole.
That makes the Vikings' home match with powerhouse St. Charles North on Tuesday close to a must-win if the Vikings are going to again be a serious player in the UEC River race.
COACH SLY SAYS
Looks like Kaneland is having trouble finding the back of the net.
The Knights have played two matches without a single goal, falling to DeKalb and West Aurora.
The shame of it is, Kaneland has a great goalkeeper in Jordan Ginther, who will keep the Knights in just about every game this spring. Both Kaneland defeats came by 1-0 scores.
Here's hoping Ginther's stellar play doesn't go to waste, and the Knights' offense finds its footing ASAP.